Thure Sundell

Rådhusgatan 21 - Thure Sundell

Thure Georg Sundell


(b. 1864 - d. 1924)

The artist Thure Sundell lived here. Although the house no longer remains, we can still see his little pavilion in the garden.

Thure was born in Benvik, just north of Kaskinen. His father had wanted him to become a tradesman. However, his drawing and painting talents were so clear, from very early on, that he was allowed to leave to study art at the tender age of 13. He began under a private tutor in Helsinki, then enrolled at the art academy there. Thure studied alongside such figures as Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Eero Järnefelt, who today enjoy iconic status in Finnish art history.

Thure Sundell was regarded as a promising talent by his teachers and colleagues alike. The artists around him tried to convince him to exhibit his work. However, he was more interested in continuing his studies than in fame. While a group of his colleagues sought international attention at the Paris World's Fair in 1900, he accepted scholarships to study painting at the Royal Stockholm Academy.

Yet all Thure Sundell really wanted was to be in Kaskinen, on his beloved island, and live a simple life of solitude by the sea. Indeed, the rocky coastline and nature in the archipelago were the motifs closest to his heart. He was a very shy man, almost a hermit. Every once in a while, his artist friends were able to pressure him into taking part in international art competitions. Each time he did, he won prizes and critics loved him. But the accolades were not at all important for Thure, and by age 40 he had completely isolated himself from the Finnish art community, even though he continued to study the latest developments in visual arts as painting grew in leaps and bounds.

Perhaps he simply didn't want to compromise on what was important to him. Clearly, he was quite an idealistic man -- he was very interested in reading about and discussing the social and cultural issues of his time. But his idealism had a more personal dimension too: he often refused any payment for his paintings or offered them for only a token sum. One could say that at least partially by choice, he lived in constant poverty.

Thure Sundell spent his summers outdoors. He loved the sun and its warmth more than anything. Very regrettably, this lifestyle made him vulnerable to skin cancer, of which he died in 1924, only a year after inheriting a larger sum of money. He had no family of his own to mourn him, for he had chosen a solitary life. His legacy instead is hundreds of paintings, most of which are in private collections in and around Helsinki, Ostrobothnia, and Sweden. In Kaskinen, one can see works by Thure in the Town Hall and at the Kaskinen Local Museum.